By Rick Kern
September, 2018 marks the formal kick off of Hope Christian Fellowship’s new Bible Institute. Overseen by Associate Pastor Luis Diaz, the two-year, 18 course program has been established to develop disciples into servant leaders that are effective in their homes, local churches, and communities. Additionally, Hope Bible Institute (HBI) will strive to help men and women strengthen their relationship with God through in depth study, critical thinking, and practical ministry with hands on experience. It is a lot for a local church to take on, but if there was ever a fellowship that believes with God all things are possible, it is Hope Christian Fellowship (HCF).
More like a spiritual phenomenon, Hope Christian Fellowship is really just a gathering of believers who believe that a covenant-keeping God will answer prayer and do just that — keep His covenant with a people who are willing and obedient.
They offer a Spanish service Thursday nights, an African service on Saturdays, and Sundays run with their customary worship service. On top of that, HFC has some 28 different people groups represented in their attendance with an Eldership that, like the body it serves, is also comprised of several nationalities.
Additionally, HCF has helped start and support churches and other Christian works in several countries including Mozambique, India, and the Congo. In fact, their lead pastor, Alfonzo Galvano admitted that an amazing, “…40 churches in India alone fall under our umbrella, and we’ve built two churches there in the past two years.” They are also affiliated with churches in both Spain and Venezuela, (though not through any legal status, only as a spiritual covering), and they have a relationship with Christian works in Bulgaria.
In a way, HCF is the embodiment of that old cliché, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” And so in identifying a need in the body of Christ, as busy as HFC is going about the Lord’s work, it is no surprise to find them reaching out to God’s grace so they can reach into His followers and meet that need.
It did not happen overnight, however, HBI’s creation reaches back nearly four years. Pastor Galvano was teaching at a Bible Institute in Rochester at the time and Pastor Diaz asked him if he had ever considered establishing one in their church. “I just asked him if he ever thought about doing it here. We got a lot of young guys and women that might be interested in having a little bit more biblical education and he was like, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea. I’ve always desired that, but it’s just having someone to run it.’” They talked about it and put it on the back burner due to more pressing concerns. Diaz continued, “In May of 2017, he came up to me and he approached me and he says, ‘You know, I’ve been thinking about that Bible Institute you talked about before. We got some guys that I think can really benefit from it.”
Diaz went before the Lord in prayer saying, “Lord, if this is your will, if it’s your will God, he’s going to come up to me and give me this responsibility and I know it’s You.” The Lord didn’t wait very long to respond, “Two-and-a-half weeks later, that’s exactly what he did,” Diaz recalled. “He came up to me and said, ‘Louis, I want you to run this.’”
Since then it has been history in the making as Pastor Diaz burns the midnight oil developing a quality program. “At this point, I am the president of the whole Bible Institute and my role is just getting this thing going,” he explains. As discussions continued the vision expanded beyond the local church at HCF, and out to the entire Rochester community. In doing so, they believed that it was important to find pastors and elders from congregations outside of HCF to aid in investing and teaching the students “What I’m finding now is that I need a board as I continue to move into this,” Diaz admits. “I’m realizing I need wisdom beyond myself and my lead pastor. My desire is to develop a board for the Bible Institute. It’s not made up of just our local church; I am looking to develop relationships with other brothers from different congregations, even different denominations. This way, we’re held accountable.” This would allow them to reach out beyond HCF and at the same time help other congregations by assisting them with equipping the saints.
Based on Ephesians 4:11-13 HBI hopes to assist the church in three major platforms: Establishing a biblical foundation for the maturing believer, instructing the believer in the truth of Christ and ministry, and finally, equipping the believer in becoming a servant leader in their home, local church, and community. To achieve this, the first year focuses on establishing a spiritual foundation for the student, while the second year places the student in ministerial practice. The outcome will be the student being grounded in Christ for the work of ministry.
“We have to serve one another and do it in the spirit of love,” says Pastor Diaz. “Hopefully, through the interactions, through the education, through the expanding of the minds, that will be something they can carry on.”
Contact the church office at Hope Christian Fellowship at (716) 271-1172 for further information or visit www.hopebibleinst.org.